ZAPPA, a film by Alex Winter of ‘Bill & Ted’ fame, is the First All-Access Documentary on the Life and Times of Frank Zappa, and obviously a must for Zappa fans but also for the general public as it is an eye-opener on creativity.
Winter was given access to Zappa’s vast vault, a treasure trove containing a plethora of paraphernalia that chronicles his life – tapes, manuscripts, scores – it seems everything was documented, nothing was thrown out. When it came to his creative output, Frank was a lord of the hoard.
As a kid, the young Frank Zappa had no interest in music, much more excited by chemistry and making explosives. Bomb making’s loss was music’s gain when Frank Zappa discovered his first serious music mentor and eternal inspiration, Edgard Varese.
After the juvenile delinquency of destructive chemistry, Zappa became a prodigious creator. His early day jobs included stints as a greeting card writer and he did a six month jail stint for producing a sex tape. This experience had an enduring effect on the young Frank, more than just a token of his extreme in later life.
Lured by Theatre of Cruelty, Zappa eschewed California for New York, only to return there a little later. However, he was on the road a lot, within the United States and throughout the world. Zappa was very big in Europe, so much so the Czech Republic wanted him to act as cultural attache between the newly formed post Soviet state and America.
Forthright in his politics but unaligned to any party, Zappa toyed with the idea of running for President of the United States against George Bush senior. One muses that Frank could be the first posthumously elected leader of the Free World!
Frank was an active proponent against censorship and the conglomerate monoliths of the music industry, creating his own record label and signing fledgling artists like Alice Cooper.
Always an outlier, Frank scored a number one hit with his daughter, Moon Unit with the song ‘Valley Girl’ in 1982. But pop stardom did not stop him continue to collaborate with such prestige companies as the London Symphony Orchestra and the Kronos Quartet.
Pulsating with a polarity of Passions, contradictory and contrary but consistent in his contradictions and contrariness, the perception of a career disposed of year after year, Frank Zappa is the supreme iconoclast who became an icon.